Category Archives: Force Modernization

What They May Get, 2020

S-350 Vityaz launcher

S-350 Vityaz launcher

In his year-end report, Russian Defense Minister Shoygu not only publicized what the MOD received by way of arms and other equipment in 2019, he also mentioned what the military is supposed to get this year.

According to Shoygu, it will receive:

  • Twenty-two ICBM launchers with RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) and Avangard “hypersonic glide vehicles.” The latter is the long-in-development weapon that will be placed on “dry” SS-19 ICBMs Moscow received from Kyiv in the early 2000s.
  • Six modernized Tu-95MS strategic bombers.
  • The first “series produced” project 955A Borey-A SSBN Knyaz Oleg. (But the very first 955A Borey-A Knyaz Vladimir wasn’t accepted in 2019. It’s now scheduled for delivery during the first quarter of this year.)
  • 565 “modern” (presumably new or modernized) armored vehicles, 436 missile and artillery systems, two battalion sets of Buk-M3 SAMs to round out 11 formations and units. (565 doesn’t go too far — perhaps six motorized rifle regiments, but 436 is a lot — maybe 24 artillery battalions, enough for eight MR brigades.)
  • 106 new and modernized aircraft.
  • Four regimental sets of S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) SAMs.
  • Six battalion sets of Pantsir (SA-22 Greyhound) gun-missile systems.
  • One Kupol early warning satellite (fourth overall).
  • 14 surface combatants of varying size, three submarines, and 18 other vessels. (Not real precise.) One Bal (SSC-6 Sennight) coastal missile system.

Shoygu said the RF Armed Forces will have 70 percent “modern” arms and equipment in 2020, fulfilling the order given by President Putin in 2012.

He also noted that the Defense Ministry signed long-term contracts for 76 Su-57 Felon (PAK FA) fighters (although the first series model crashed) and more than 200 combat helos in 2019. He reported that 22 ships for the “distant ocean zone” are under construction and eight more will be laid down in 2020.

On January 13, Krasnaya zvezda quoted Shoygu saying procurement will be about 1.5 trillion rubles ($25 billion), about the same as 2019, with 68 percent going to purchase new equipment. Nearly 4,000 new armored and other vehicles (i.e. trucks, etc.) will arrive in 2020 along with 1,700 artillery and missile systems. (How does that track with the 436 above?? Perhaps it includes slightly modernized or repaired?)

RIAN offered its own list of what the Russian military is supposed to get this year. It noted that the MOD and OPK signed about 50 contracts in 2019 worth more than 1 trillion rubles of weapons and equipment. Not all for delivery in 2020 of course.

According to the official news agency, the Russian Navy will receive the second project 636.3 Improved Kilo Volkhov for the Pacific Fleet, the second project 677 Lada Kronshtadt also for the Pacific, and the second project 885M Yasen-M Novosibirsk. (But in 2020 the Navy is still awaiting the first Yasen-M Kazan and expects renovated project 949A Belgorod that will carry Moscow’s doomsday torpedoes.) 

Kronshtadt

Kronshtadt

RIAN says the Russian Navy will get its second project 11711 LST Petr Morgunov in the first quarter of the year. The Black Sea Fleet will accept 16 new ships and other vessels. And the Baltic Fleet will be content with catamaran-type hydrographic survey vessels (project 23370).

The Aerospace Forces will acquire new Su-35S fighters, six Mi-28NM helos, S-400 SAMs, and more S-350 Vityaz SAMs. (These initial deliveries are for troop testing and training. Series production of this system is slated for 2021-2027.)

More random notes on 2020:

  • Mil.ru says the Ground Troops in 2020 will get more than 300 tanks and armored vehicles. Its Moscow-based 1st Tank Army will receive more than 250 weapons systems and other pieces of equipment.
  • Interfaks-AVN indicated some will be BMP-3, BMP-2, and BMPT armored vehicles with new unmanned turrets.
  • The Russian Army is supposed to receive 40,000 new AK-12 assault weapons.
  • The VDV’s 76th DShD in Pskov already got a battalion set of BMD-4M and BTR-MDM armored vehicles.
  • The Central MD reports it’ll acquire more than 850 new or modernized items including 19 aircraft, 10 radars, 145 armored vehicles (30 T-72B3M tanks), four battalion sets (two regiments) of S-400 SAMs.
  • Ilyushin had to bounce two of five new Il-76MD-90A transports it couldn’t finish in 2019 to this year.

What They Got, 2019

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s address to the MOD Collegium on December 24 began with de rigueur descriptions of how the U.S. and NATO menace Russia.

Not bothering, of course, to mention that it’s Moscow’s treaty-busting and its invasion of a neighbor that put America back in the intermediate-range missile business and caused Balts and Poles to bulk up their defenses.

Capture

It’s not propaganda of interest here, but rather what Mr. Shoygu claims the Russian military acquired by way of hardware in 2019.

Shoygu said the MOD had the highest level of arms and equipment supplied to its forces in four years — more than 6,500 — which raised the share of “modern” types to 68.2 percent overall. “Modern” arms reached 76 percent and 82 percent respectively in the RVSN and Russia’s nuclear triad specifically.

He added that the first missile regiment outfitted with Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles began combat duty this week. Three RVSN regiments received RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) ICBMs. Peresvet laser defense systems are on-duty with five ICBM divisions.

Shoygu enumerated what the rest of the military got this year:

  • Five modernized strategic bombers
  • Completed testing of Borey-A (pr. 955A) SSBN Knyaz Vladimir [but still not accepted for service]
  • 624 tanks and other armored vehicles
  • 143 airplanes and helicopters
  • 13 satellites, including the third Kupol early warning satellite
  • One submarine [the first pr. 636.3 for the Pacific Fleet Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy]
  • Eight surface ships
  • 17 vessels and support ships
  • Four coastal missile systems
  • 10,000 pieces of comms gear [how does that square with 6,500?]

Not everything can be good, so Defense Minister Shoygu said the serviceability rate of the MOD’s training aircraft is only 58 percent, and new Yak-130 jet trainers only 56 percent. But he claimed the overall rate for MOD equipment is 95 percent. Naturally, it’s a game of what gets counted and what doesn’t.

Listing the military’s accomplishments, Shoygu provided other points of interest.

— In 2019, the Russians held two “systematic” surprise inspections of combat readiness involving military districts, armed services, and service branches. He didn’t say which ones or where.

— The MOD conducted an attestatsiya of contractees to evaluate their competence and suitability. Some were found unfit and separated from the service.

— An old problem from the early 2010s is nearly resolved. Housing has been provided for some 61,000 officers who lacked a duty post but couldn’t be retired until they got apartments legally due to them. Only 47 officers in this situation remain to be housed.

— The LRA conducted 48 strategic bomber flights in 2019.

— Russian aircraft sorties in Syria are down to 2-3 per day now. In 2015-2017, there were 80-90 combat flights daily.

— Russian forces have now tested 359 “modern” weapons and equipment items in Syria.

In conclusion, Defense Minister Shoygu said the Russian Armed Forces fulfilled all assigned missions in 2019, and increased their combat potential by 14 percent.

Wouldn’t we love to see the formula used to determine that.

Russia’s Second Best Protected City

St. Petersburg is probably now Russia’s second best protected city in terms of air defense (as common sense would dictate).

Interfaks-AVN reported today that another regiment of the Western MD’s 2nd Air Defense Division in Leningrad oblast has completed training with the S-400 to include combat firings against Favorit targets (the 5V55 missile from the S-300P system).

S-400 deployments in the 2nd ADD

S-400 deployments in the 2nd ADD

The regiment, likely the 1489th SAM Regiment, has returned to its home base of Vaganovo ENE of StP. It’s supposed to begin combat duty in February 2020, according to Interfaks-AVN.

The 500th SAM Regiment at Gostilitsy WSW of StP got its S-400s in 2015. The 1488th at Zelenogorsk NW of StP in 2016, the 1490th at Ulyanovka SE of StP probably in 2017, and the 1544th at Vladimirskiy Lager (but launch battalions split between Luga and Strugi Krasnyye) S of StP in 2018.

So not only is the 2nd ADD now all S-400, it’s also a five-regiment SAM division.

Here’s a handy reference to S-400 deployments (which have been difficult to keep up on). No wonder Mr. Putin wants to unplug the Internet and get rid of ru.wikipedia.org.

Motovilikha’s Year

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers leaving the factory in Perm

In September, we checked in on Motovilikha and its contract to produce 20 Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems for the Russian MOD in 2020. Today it put out a press-release detailing its completion of state defense order work for 2019.

The enterprises of Motovilikhinskiye Plants put out more than 70 pieces of tube and rocket artillery, and spares for the MOD this year. Work on GOZ contracts finished last week.

Motovilikha subsidiary ZAO Special Design Bureau (SKB) repaired more than 30 2A65 Msta-B 152-mm towed howitzers and 2S1 Gvozdika 122-mm SP howitzers, and carried out capital repair and modernization of about 20 Grad MLRS updating them to Tornado-G systems.

Msta-B towed howitzers leaving the plant.PNG

Msta-B 152-mm towed howtizers leaving the plant

Quoting Motovilikhinskiye Plants director Aleksandr Anokhin, the press-release reported the volume of GOZ work will increase “substantially” in 2020.

The item notes that Motovilikha is the developer and only producer of Grad and Smerch MLRS, modified Tornado-G and Tornado-S systems, and associated reload vehicles. It produces 2S23 Nona-SVK and 2S31 Vena 120-mm self-propelled guns, the towed Msta-B, 2B23 Nona-M1 120-mm towed mortar, and other artillery systems.

Interestingly, the end of the press-release added that:

State corporation Rostekh, OOO RT-Kapital specifically, is currently implementing a systematic anti-crisis program in connection with the Motovilikhinskiye Plants group of enterprises which aims to preserve and develop their fundamental productive competencies in their existing facilities.

So despite the year just ending, Motovilikha is experiencing a crisis. But owner Rostekh wants to keep it operating in Perm. Beyond that, who knows. RT-Kapital is a branch of the conglomerate that works with “problem” equity and consolidates and restructures debt.

Cold War Sans CoCom

TMX-4000

Russia’s Kovrov Electromechanical Plant (KEMZ) is set to begin producing licensed copies of Takisawa’s TMX-4000 five-axis digital milling machine. KEMZ and Japan’s Takisawa have a contract for joint production of six machines before the end of 2021. The first is due in April 2020 and will be exhibited at Metal Working-2020 in Moscow in May.

According to a November 8 press release:

The transition to new generation digital equipment will substantially increase the volume of high technology civilian products. At KEMZ we are beginning to produce five-axis milling centers which have not been manufactured in Russia until now. One of these centers can replace several three-coordinate lathes and reduce the production cycle by several times. Potential buyers — Rostekh’s manufacturing enterprises and companies of the shipbuilding and oil processing sectors — are already interested in the model.

The advanced milling machine is designed to make complex parts for, inter alia, aircraft engines, hydraulic systems, and nuclear reactors with 5-micron accuracy. Only seven companies in the world can make such a machine, according to the press statement.

KEMZ and Takisawa have collaborated since 2013, producing six models of machine tools jointly and more than 30 modifications to systems now produced locally in the Russian Federation.

The TMX-4000 and other, essentially foreign, CNC milling systems will make much more than “high technology civilian products.” KEMZ belongs to Russian government-owned NPO Precision Systems (Высокоточные комплексы) which holds companies producing:

  • a wide variety of small arms and ammunition
  • grenade launchers
  • anti-tank missile systems
  • laser-guided munitions
  • aircraft- and helicopter-mounted guns and cannons
  • naval close-in weapons systems
  • Bakhcha and Berezhok turrets for armored vehicles
  • Arena and Drozd active armor defense systems
  • Pantsir-S1 gun-missile systems
  • Strela-10 and Igla-S SAM systems
  • Iskander-M SRBMs

One of Precision Systems’ main holdings — KBP — has been under U.S. DOT OFAC sanctions since 2014.

Precision Systems is controlled by government-owned conglomerate Rostekh which is also under U.S. sanctions.

Technology export controls and sanctions aimed at the Kremlin are an old story. They are difficult to manage. They threaten to punish allied countries and companies for doing business with Moscow in order to deter that activity and deprive Russia of commerce. They become as much a bone of contention among allies as a tool against an adversary.

During the Cold War, U.S. leadership was strong and CoCom prevented some strategic exports to the USSR. But that system, such as it was, also failed infamously.

In 1983-1984, Japan’s Toshiba sold the Russians sophisticated milling machines and Norway’s Kongsberg gave the Kremlin the computer and software needed to make more sophisticated propellers that eventually quieted its Improved Akula SSN and fourth-generation nuclear-powered submarines.

In 1987, the CIA assessed the damage like this:

Capture

But even with its massive purloining of Western technology in the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet Union lost the Cold War. It proved incapable of exploiting the equipment and knowledge it stole. They didn’t help Moscow fix the enormous social and economic problems that doomed the CPSU and USSR in 1991.

In today’s Cold War redux, there’s little U.S. leadership, no CoCom, and a plethora of places Russia can get technology it needs and can’t produce. Now it’s buying the right to manufacture the same equipment it obtained surreptitiously nearly 40 years ago. It hasn’t fixed an economic system that struggles even to copy things.

It looked like post-Soviet Russia might join the Western community nations after the end of the First Cold War. It benefited from economic and technological cooperation and collaboration it could never imagine. As the Second Cold War unfolded, Russia largely retained that benefit despite sanctions. That benefit has been put to work in Mr. Putin’s arms buildup, in the development and production of more sophisticated weapons systems. The TMX-4000 and other machinery might be used to make an Iskander-MS (S for improved) that is on the Russian MOD’s agenda, or PAK DA, or Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, etc.

For its part, Japan only symbolically joined in sanctions against Russia following its 2014 invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Tokyo has kept its relations with Moscow on track in its (probably futile) pursuit of the Northern Territories and a peace treaty to end World War II. The Japanese also balance between Russia and China in the (probably vain) hope that the two great powers won’t get too close at their expense.

But all this is neither here nor there because, under other circumstances, it might have been a different allied country working with KEMZ or some other Russian firm.

Russia will get the technology it wants from other countries somehow, some way. The past shows that. But it’s far from certain, again based on history, that Russia can do what it wants with that technology successfully.

Contract for Tornado-S MLRS

Tornado-S

According to Kommersant, Perm-based ZAO Special Design Bureau (SKB) received a contract worth 6-7 billion rubles ($93-$108 million) to produce 20 combat systems for the Russian MOD. The paper’s sources say the contract is for Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and transport-reload vehicles. The equipment is to be delivered in 2020.

The 12-tube, 300-mm Tornado-S (9K515) MLRS is a “deeply modernized” version of the Smerch. It reportedly features GLONASS satellite navigation, automated fire control, and 9M542 PGMs. Unlike earlier systems, Tornado-S gives specific flight profile data to each rocket. Its effective range is 120 km.

Tornado-S first entered the inventory in late 2016. Smerch was accepted for service in 1989.

The new 9K515 weapons system includes the 9A54 launch vehicle and 9T255 transport-reload vehicle.

Tornado-S and TZM

The 20 systems in the contract likely include 16 launch vehicles (two battalions of eight) and four transport-reload vehicles (two per launch battalion).

The Russian MOD is using new Tornado-S MLRS to build a heavy rocket launcher brigade at the district level in each of its four MDs. In Soviet times, each MD (front) disposed of its own rocket launcher brigade, typically four battalions of 18 40-tube, 122-mm BM-21 Grad systems.

Those “brigades” look like this now:

  • Western MD…Tver…79th Brigade…three battalions of Tornado-S…12 launchers.
  • Southern MD…Znamensk…439th Brigade…??? battalions of Tornado-S…??? launchers.
  • Central MD…Shchuchye…232nd Brigade…two battalions of 220-mm Uragan…16 launchers.
  • Eastern MD…Novosysoyevka…338th Brigade…2-3 battalions of Uragan…16-18 launchers.

But these are more like rocket battalions than the brigades of old days.

The first Tornado-S deployments began in 2017 in the Western MD and continued in the Southern MD in early 2019.

It seems likely the Tornado-S systems due in 2020 will go to the Central or Eastern MD before the Western or Southern get more.

Kommersant detailed the poor financial status of ZAO SKB. Its parent, long-time sole producer of Russian MLRS Motovilikhinskiye Plants is bankrupt. SKB was split away to keep creditors at bay. The rest of Motovilikha is supposed to retool to make civilian products. The growing problem of insolvency in Russia’s OPK is worthy of a look.

Putin on Import Substitution

Putin addresses the VPK

No one in Russia’s defense industries will say Moscow’s program of import substitution isn’t going well. But, while acknowledging some success, the Supreme CINC intimates it could be going better. Izvestiya recapped Putin’s remarks last week as follows [my trans.]:

Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged mistakes in planning the import substitution program in the defense-industrial complex (OPK). According to him, they caused movement in the deadlines for several state defense orders in 2018.

“Considering the complexity and interconnection of all our rearmament plans for the army and navy, such failures have to be effectively eliminated,” the head of state said at a session of the Military-Industrial Commission on Thursday, September 19.

Putin also ordered the government and leading departments “to take supplementary measures to guarantee technological independence in the area of military production.” Including those products in the design phase.

The head of state also noted that the process of import substitution in the OPK is ongoing and Russia has achieved technological independence in more than 350 types of armaments.

“The import substitution program began five years ago, over this time we’ve really managed to advance somewhat, at least in a number of significant directions,” TASS cited Putin.

The President noted that in recent years the share of the domestic electronic component base in modern types of armaments has grown substantially and the production of engines for helicopters and Navy (VMF) ships has been arranged.

“Also soon it will be possible to repair engines for An-124 aircraft in Russian enterprises,” he added.

On August 1, 2018, Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Borisov announced a possible breakdown in the deadline for delivering combat ships to the VMF in 2018. He noted that the state “practically every year” struggles “with systematic violations of the period for supplying ships and boats to the VMF by a number of shipbuilding enterprises.”

Meanwhile in February 2018, Pavel Pechkovskiy, a directorate chief in the Defense Ministry’s Department for Support of the State Defense Order for Ships and Naval Armaments, related that practically all main equipment for VMF ships had been fully shifted to domestic types in the framework of import substitution.

Mr. Putin doesn’t sound particularly pleased, and his praise is faint (“really managed to advance somewhat”). He was likely more frank behind closed doors.

The share of domestic electronics “has grown,” but Putin doesn’t tell us where it stands in absolute terms.

But in May, an economist writing in VPK estimated not more than 15 percent of the “electronic component base” (EKB) is Russian-made, and not less than 70 percent of the OPK is buying foreign EKB in the same volume as always.

The Russians are producing the VK-2500 gas turbine to power their military helicopters. They used to get helicopter engines from Motor Sich in Ukraine.

As Putin noted, Russian industry is updating the D-18T engine for the Ukrainian-made An-124 transport. The modernization of the An-124 is supposed to carry the transport into the 2040s.

Meanwhile, the Antonov Design Bureau in Kyiv claims Moscow lacks many essentials to overhaul the An-124 (e.g. documents, design drawings, test data). And AO UZGA is having difficulties that may be technical or financial in renovating the D-18T. Of course, the updated D-18T isn’t really an import substitute.

Then there are naval gas turbine engines for Russia. They too were formerly made in Ukraine and need replacement. Russian engine-builder ODK asserted earlier in September that its enterprises are now filling all orders for engines once supplied by Motor Sich. But Izvestiya leaves the reader wondering if ships due this year will be late anyway.